Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Immigration and Citizenship Resources

Overview of immigration and citizenship resources, including websites and organizations at the local and national level.

Immigration in the United States


Image from; accessed September 13, 2017.


Immigrants in the United States

Data from the Census Bureau shows that 42.4 million immigrants (both legal and illegal) now live in the United States. This Backgrounder provides a detailed picture of immigrants, also referred to as the foreign-born, living in the United States by country of birth and state. It also examines the progress immigrants make over time. All figures are for both legal and illegal immigrants who responded to Census Bureau surveys.

Among the report's findings:

Population Size and Growth

  • The nation's 42.4 million immigrants (legal and illegal) in 2014 is the highest number ever in American history. The 13.3 percent of the nation's population comprised of immigrants in 2014 is the highest percentage in 94 years.
  • Between 2000 and 2014, 18.7 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) settled in the United States. Despite the Great Recession beginning at the end of 2007, and the weak recovery that followed, 7.9 million new immigrants settled in the United States from the beginning of 2008 to mid-2014.
  • From 2010 to 2014, new immigration (legal and illegal) plus births to immigrants added 8.3 million residents to the country, equal to 87 percent of total U.S. population growth.
  • The sending countries with the largest percentage increases in immigrants living in the United States from 2010 to 2014 were Saudi Arabia (up 93 percent), Bangladesh (up 37 percent), Iraq (up 36 percent), Egypt (up 25 percent), and Pakistan, India, and Ethiopia (each up 24 percent).
  • States with the largest percentage increases in the number of immigrants from 2010 to 2014 were North Dakota (up 45 percent), Wyoming (up 42 percent), Montana (up 19 percent), Kentucky (up 15 percent), New Hampshire (up 14 percent), and Minnesota and West Virginia (both up 13 percent).

Labor and Employment

  • Rates of work for immigrants and natives tend to be similar — 70 percent of both immigrants and natives (ages 18 to 65) held a job in March 2015.
  • Immigrant men have higher rates of work than native-born men — 82 percent vs. 73 percent. However, immigrant women have lower rates of work than native-born women — 57 percent vs. 66 percent.
  • A large share of immigrants have low levels of formal education. Of adult immigrants (ages 25 to 65), 28 percent have not completed high school, compared to 8 percent of natives. The share of immigrants (25 to 65) with at least a bachelor's degree is only slightly lower than natives — 30 percent vs. 32 percent.
  • Because many immigrants have modest levels of education, they have significantly increased the share of some types of workers relative to others.
  • In 2014, 49 percent of maids, 47 percent of taxi drivers and chauffeurs, 33 percent of butchers and meat processors, and 35 percent of construction laborers were foreign-born.
  • While the above occupations are often thought of as overwhelmingly comprised of immigrants, most of the workers in these jobs are U.S.-born.
  • Workers in other occupations face relatively little competition from immigrants. In 2014, 5 percent of English language journalists, 6 percent of farmers and ranchers, and 7 percent of lawyers were immigrants.
  • At the same time immigration has added to the number of less-educated workers, the share of young less-educated natives holding a job declined significantly. In 2000, 66 percent of natives under age 30 with no education beyond high school were working; in 2015 it was 53 percent.

Socioeconomic Status

  • Despite similar rates of work, because a larger share of adult immigrants arrive with little education, immigrants are significantly more likely to work low-wage jobs, live in poverty, lack health insurance, use welfare, and have lower rates of home ownership.
  • In 2014, 21 percent of immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) lived in poverty, compared to 13 percent of natives and their children. Immigrants and their children account for about one-fourth of all persons in poverty.
  • Almost one in three children (under age 18) in poverty have immigrant fathers.
  • In 2014, 18 percent of immigrants and their U.S.-born children (under 18) lacked health insurance, compared to 9 percent of natives and their children.
  • In 2014, 42 percent of immigrant-headed households used at least one welfare program (primarily food assistance and Medicaid), compared to 27 percent for natives. Both figures represent an undercount. If adjusted for undercount based on other Census Bureau data, the rate would be 57 percent for immigrants and 34 percent for natives.
  • In 2014, 12 percent of immigrant households were overcrowded, using a common definition of such households. This compares to 2 percent of native households.
  • Of immigrant households, 51 percent are owner-occupied, compared to 65 percent of native households.
  • The lower socio-economic status of immigrants is not due to their being mostly recent arrivals. The average immigrant in 2014 had lived in the United States for almost 21 years.

Immigrant Progress Over Time

  • Immigrants make significant progress the longer they live in the country. However, even immigrants who have lived in the United States for 20 years have not come close to closing the gap with natives.
  • The poverty rate of adult immigrants who have lived in the United States for 20 years is 57 percent higher than for adult natives.
  • The share of households headed by an immigrant who has lived in the United States for 20 years using at least one welfare program is 80 percent higher than native households.
  • The share of households headed by an immigrant who has lived in the United States for 20 years that are owner occupied is 24 percent lower than that of native households.

Impact on Public Schools

  • There are 10.9 million students from immigrant households in public schools, and they account for nearly 23 percent of all public school students.
  • There are 64 public school students per 100 immigrant households, compared to 38 for native households. Because immigrant households tend to be poorer, immigration often increases school enrollment without a corresponding increase in the local tax base.
  • In addition to increasing enrollment, immigration often creates significant challenges for schools by adding to the number of students with special needs. In 2014, 75 percent of students who spoke a language other than English were from immigrant households, as are 31 percent of all public school students in poverty.
  • States with the largest share of public school students from immigrant households are California (47 percent), Nevada (37 percent), New York and New Jersey (33 percent each), and Texas (32 percent).


  • Immigrants and natives have very similar rates of entrepreneurship — 12.4 percent of immigrants are self-employed either full- or part-time, as are 12.8 percent of natives.
  • Most of the businesses operated by immigrants and natives tend to be small. In 2015, only 16 percent of immigrant-owned businesses had more than 10 employees, as did 19 percent of native-owned businesses.

Impact on the Aging of American Society

  • Recent immigration has had a small impact on the nation's age structure. If post-2000 immigrants are excluded from the data, the median age in the United States would still be 37.
  • Recent immigration has had a small impact on the nation's fertility rate. In 2014, the nation's total fertility rate (TFR) was 1.85 children per women. Excluding all immigrants, it would have been the rate for natives — 1.78 children per woman. The presence of immigrants has increased the nation's TFR by about 4 percent.

From; accessed September 13, 2017.



Brian Bess's picture
Brian Bess
915 Monroe St.
Huntsville, AL 35801